Mitt Romney is very wealthy. The Boston Globepegged his net worth at somewhere between $190 million and $250 million. So it was probably a bad idea for him to respond to a challenge from Texas Gov. Rick Perry at Saturday's GOP debate by offering to wager $10,000—more than a lot of Americans have in their savings accounts right now—that he had never supported a national individual mandate. Here's video, via TPM:
To make matters worse, Romney didn't just give President Obama grist for a campaign ad—he'd also lose the bet. Romney did, at least until recently, believe that his Massachusetts health care plan offered a model for the rest of the country.
Update: On further review, it's not clear whether Romney would lose the bet, since he didn't specifically call for a federal mandate in his (since-revised) book. But Perry's right that Romney supports mandates on principle, and he has, in other forums, endorsed their implementation at the federal level.
Pressed by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) at Saturday's GOP presidential debate, Newt Gingrich offered a clever explanation for his longtime support for an individual mandate for health insurance. As the former speaker of the House told it, he had supported the mandate in 1993 specifically as an alternative to Hillarycare. The mandate was, he noted, a Republican idea. But "after Hillarycare disappeared…people tried to find other techniques."
There are a couple of problems with Gingrich's alibi, but none more glaring than the fact that he didn't simply abandon the mandate after Hillarycare failed. As David Corn reported, Gingrich was calling for an individual mandate for health insurance as recently as 2007. As Gingrich wrote:
In order to make coverage more accessible, Congress must do more, including passing legislation to: establish a national health insurance marketplace by giving individuals the freedom to shop for insurance plans across state lines; provide low-income families with $1,000 in direct contributions to a health savings account, along with a $2,000 advanced tax credit to purchase an HSA-eligible high-deductible health plan; make premiums for these plans tax deductible; provide tax rebates to small businesses that contribute to their employees' HSAs; extend and expand grant funding to high-risk pools across the country; and require anyone who earns more than $50,000 a year to purchase health insurance or post a bond.
Here's a video of Gingrich pitching his proposal while seated across from Hillary Clinton, herself, in 2005:
As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.
By April 1997, House Speaker Newt Gingrich's approval rating had dipped to 14 percent in the national polls. The balance of power in his party was beginning to shift to the now-GOP controlled Senate, and there was an ethics investigation targeting him for several allegations of wrongdoing. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) went on the record describing his speaker as "road kill." But Gingrich was riding high, for he had just conquered Central Asia.
In advance of Mongolia's national elections in 1996, Gingrich and Republican allies dispatched a band of consultants to groom a slate of free-market-oriented candidates. They crafted a "Contract With the Mongolian Voter," based on the "Contract With America" Gingrich and his Republican allies composed for the 1994 election that brought him to power. The Gingrich-backed Mongolian candidates pledged to privatize 60 percent of state property, cut social services, slash taxes, and "support herders' rights to use non-cash payment methods." Baby steppes. As the Washington Postreported, "Even the new Mongolian election law was lifted verbatim from the election law manual of Texas."
The election was a huge success for Gingrich. His Mongolian allies went from five votes in the legislature to 50—out of a total 76. Maureen Dowd dubbed him "Speaker of the Yurt."
Holding up a crown-shaped hat that had been giften to him by an adoring Mongolian, Gingrich appeared on stage at the annual GOPAC conference in Washington, DC to claim victory. From that speech:
"On a stool in his portable felt and canvas yurt, Yadamsuren, a seventy-year-old nomadic sheepherder, offered a visitor chunks of sheep fat and shots of fermented mare's milk to ward off the unspeakable cold....Many miles from the nearest neighbor, he spoke glowingly of the work of House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Republican Party."
I am not making this up. I am reading from the Washington Post, this is a direct quote from Mr. Yadamsuren: "I read the contract with the voter very closely."
Isn't it exciting to know that not only in America but in Mongolia, ideas are working?
Gingrich's overseas revolution was short-lived; the new Mongolian governing coalition collapsed four years later.
If at any point during the past three decades you had suggested that Ron Paul might win a major Republican nominating contest, you'd probably get a response resembling the face the Texas congressman makes when he's outlining the case for legalizing the sale of raw milk: two parts incredulity, one part mild amusement, a dash of electric shock.
And yet, with the Iowa caucuses one month out, the odds have never been better for the septuagenarian libertarian icon. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, a good barometer of DC wisdom, suggested on Wednesday that Paul might even be a serious contender for the nomination if he would just "hedge his foreign policy views." By which he means: Cut back on the isolationism and whisper more sweet nothings about Israel. (Paul's already taken steps toward the latter.)
Paul might just win Iowa. As Red State founder Erick Erickson points out, he's worked the state harder than almost anyone else and honed his message to appeal to corn belt conservatives (the raw milk line is a winner). But that doesn’t make him a serious contender. As Politico’s Maggie Haberman and others have pointed out, Paul's candidacy has a clear ceiling. Until his opponents start talking about the following issues, you'll know Paul isn't a serious threat:
As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich —until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.
If you want to understand Newt Gingrich, start with what's on his book shelf. That's his advice, anyway. He assigned a reading list to his Republican caucus in 1995, and he peppers his speeches with references to writers like French existentialist Albert Camus. And as Connie Bruck explained in her epic 1995 New Yorker profile, Gingrich was particularly influenced by a novel about a 17th-century Japanese samurai named Toranaga:
[Former campaign manager Carlyle] Gregory also said that in 1978 Gingrich was reading the novel Shogun by James Clavell, and that a major character—Toranaga, a seventeenth-century samurai warlord—had a powerful influence on him. [Gingrich's friend] Daryl Conner, too, told me that Toranaga was a critical model for Gingrich. The book is a narrative of Toranaga's quest for the absolute power of shogun. Throughout the book, Toranaga, who confides in no one, violently repudiates the suggestion of his most loyal followers that he should seek to become shogun, even calling it "treason." Yet, through his study of individuals' psychology, his patience in listening, his system of punishment and reward, his establishment of an elaborate information network of spies, and his talent in projecting a wholly false self-image (he is an accomplished Noh actor), Toranaga is able to use, manipulate, and deceive all who come in contact with him; thus, in the end, he achieves his goal.
It gets better:
He will become shogun, and, moreover (this the reader learns at the very end), it has also long been Toranaga's long-held secret plan to rid Japan of white people.
What if Gingrich is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Japanese, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together his behavior?